Senate

Manchin threatens 'zero' spending in blowup with Sanders: reports

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got into argument on Wednesday during which the centrist West Virginia senator said he was willing to let go of all of President Biden's social spending plan, according to an Axios report that has been corroborated by multiple other senators who witnessed the spat.

Fellow Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Chris Coons (Del.), both of whom serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee and were both in the room when it happened, relayed details of the blowup to Axios.

According to Tester, Sanders said, "Joe said, 'I'm comfortable with nothing.' ... We need to do three-and-a-half [trillion dollars]."

"The truth is both of them are in different spots," Tester said of his two colleagues.

Manchin apparently confirmed this saying, "I'm comfortable with zero," and forming a zero with his fingers, according to Tester. Tester told Axios that he believes Manchin when he says he is fine with none of Biden's multitrillion-dollar social spending plan being passed.

Coons described the verbal quarrel as a "vigorous, 10-minute discussion." According to Coons, Manchin said, "We shouldn't do it at all," when speaking of the social spending plan.

"This will contribute to inflation. We've already passed the American Rescue Plan. We should just pass the infrastructure bill and, you know, pause for six months," Manchin said, according to the Delaware senator.

The Hill has reached out to Sanders's and Manchin's offices for comment on the argument.

Sanders and Manchin represent two vastly opposing sides of the Democratic Party, with the apparent divide being blamed for stalling bills considered key to Biden's agenda. The two senators, who are both members of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer's (D-N.Y.) leadership team, have butted heads multiple times as negotiations on the spending bill continue.

Manchin has made his opposition to higher spending on social program well known, saying at the start of October that he would not support any reconciliation bill over $1.5 trillion.

Sanders has said that the recent $3.5 trillion price tag that was floated by Democrats is the "very least" that should be included in Biden's spending plan.

This argument occurred just days after the both senators posed for photos outside the Capitol in an apparent show of amicable progress on negotiations.

Manchin said on Thursday that it looked as though negotiators will miss the Friday deadline set by Schumer for a deal on the reconciliation bill to be reached, though he said "good progress" was being made.

"This is not going to happen anytime soon, guys," he said. "There's a lot of work to do, everybody's working hard, everybody's communicating, working hard. A lot of meetings going on."

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